Ministry of Education, Technical and Vocational Training’s press conference – 30th December 2020. (PMO)

Minister of Education, Technical and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, has welcomed the response by stakeholders for a full return to the classroom at some point.

This was underscored on Wednesday as she addressed a press conference in the Media Resource Department’s Conference Room at the Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael, where she spoke to the level of preparedness of educational institutions for the start of the second term in January 2021.

Stating that Term II would see teachers returning on January 4 to undertake their necessary preparatory work, and students on January 5, Minister Bradshaw said: “I am pleased to say that there is overall consensus among the stakeholders that we have to move in the direction of being able to allow our students to return to the classroom environment fully. Of course, on the fifth of January, it will not mean that every single student will return to the classroom, you know, one time.  But what it does mean is that we will be working over the course of the next few weeks with the COVID Monitoring Unit, to be able to gradually return students to the classroom.”

She pointed out that many students had informed the Ministry that they “really wanted to get back into a face-to-face, and as normal an environment as they possibly could, even if they had to adhere to the protocols.  “Many of them wanted to, at least, be given the opportunity with all of the safety protocols in place to be able to return to the school environment,” she stated.

Speaking to the response from educators, the Minister said: “When we discussed with the teachers, it was the same thing.  There was a call for making sure that things were safe in the school environment, but equally making sure as well that students particularly, who were exhibiting a lot of social and emotional behaviours, and finding difficulty trying to adjust to this new norm, that they were given the opportunity to be able to come back to school. So, after all of our extensive discussions, we would have met with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and officials from the COVID Monitoring Unit.”

Media representatives were reminded that the first term saw a number of students able to return to the classroom, face-to-face and there had been some variances at some other institutions where some students were able to return to school three days a week, two days on line.

“There were some where there was one week on, one week off.  We also had one instance where we had one school at the secondary level, which was able to put in place the shift system as well. So, depending on which institution it was, we were able to kind of test exactly what model would actually work for our particular institutions,” Minister Bradshaw said, while adding that on January 5, the intention was for the status quo to remain the same. 

Elaborating, she said: “Essentially, if you have been attending school on Tuesdays at the end of last term, you will continue to attend on Tuesday, but you will also be notified if there are any changes by the respective schools, over the course of the coming weeks. But I think people would feel more relieved to know where the priorities are for the schools. And, as we are able to work with the COVID Monitoring Unit, to be able to look at spacing and to look at whether we need additional offsite locations, the intention is that we can certainly increase the presence of more students on the school plant.”

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